I hope this will be circulated very widely in the interest of open dialogue, discussion and debate because we have a very difficult struggle ahead.
This essay deserves widespread distribution and serious discussion and consideration.
I have highlighted some of the things from this essay which I think need to be explored more in-depth.
In my opinion, maybe not to the author, it is very clear who groomed and put Obama where he is today. State-monopoly capitalism needs this flim-flam man, or as Smith calls him, a con-man now that the entire capitalist system and imperialism is falling apart, probably, sending us and the entire world, into many years of economic depression and all the misery this entails for working people--- perhaps over twenty years, if not more--- unless working people take the road to socialism; because capitalism is on a very destructive road to perdition and oblivion.
In my opinion there are only three things missing in this essay:
1. Never mentioned is George Lakoff, the linguist, who has prepped the Democratic Party for years now on how to achieve victory at the polls under the guise of “progressivism” without providing one single solution to any problem working people are experiencing.
Lakoff calls this properly framing issues with progressive policy directives while explicitly stating never, ever put forward a solution to any problem because you will lose support and votes from some constituency group.
Lakoff has almost single-handedly made it possible for Democrats to rake in the campaign contributions like never before imagined on the one hand while making these politicians completely lacking in accountability to voters--- especially working class voters.
Please, please take the time to read George Lakoff’s little booklet:
Don’t Think of An Elephant!
I hate to sell his books for him but this one is cheap and it is what the Democratic Party is using to train its politicians and all those they want to keep tethered to this pathetic politics we have become entrapped in as working people.
I cannot stress enough the need for you to read this short little book.
Please note while reading, Lakoff very specifically states Democrats must not bring forward any solutions, rather, the “trick” is to frame issues with a progressive perspective--- and this is why we have been tricked too often by politicians who sound so good.
2. No explanation of the kind of “left” movement required (class struggle is not mentioned), although Sam Smith does use the “left” of the thirties as his example of what will be required (I would encourage the reading of Earl Browder’s: The People’s Front--- no use throwing out the baby with the bath water)… but, this is the topic for another essay which hopefully will be forthcoming from Sam Smith and much discussion by all of us.
In fact, it wouldn’t hurt for people to do a little reading of the history of the “left” of the thirties which so successfully pushed Roosevelt, his Administration and the Congress to come through with the New Deal reform package, from which was omitted socialized health care because there wasn’t quite enough strength from the people’s front.
Check out William Z. Foster’s: “Twilight of Imperialism” and Gus Hall’s: "Working Class USA"… concluding with a good read of Victor Perlo’s: “Super Profits and Crisis” and Beatrice Lumpkin’s: “Always Bring A Crowd, the story of Frank Lumpkin, steelworker” about the struggle to save Wisconsin Steel in Chicago.
Agree with the perspectives put forward in these books, or not; you will thank me for suggesting that you make them part of your arsenal for struggle ahead.
For too long we have all been reading the critiques and criticisms of these ideas without going straight to the source and getting our information “straight from the horse’s mouth” so-to-speak; and really, to continue in this way is very dishonest intellectually and shortchanging yourself from having a slightly different view and perspective on things.
All of these books are available on the Internet quite cheap.
Get these books, read them, study the ideas. Keep them handy because we are in for big, big trouble.
I would also encourage people to read up on Frances Perkins who was the first woman cabinet secretary in U.S history, serving as FDR’s Secretary of Labor… if you are not familiar with the life of Frances Perkins, now is the time to find out about this most important woman in American history as we watch Barack Obama make his cabinet selections… you will find out quickly why our children don’t learn in school about this very concerned and compassionate woman who was in the forefront in making this world a better place for working people to live.
I have never had one single person tell me, after reading these books, that they did not appreciate me suggesting they read these books.
We have a very difficult struggle ahead and we might as well all get acquainted and understand each other and how we view the world.
I look forward to discussing these ideas with all of you.
I, also, look forward to receiving suggestions from you on what you think I might like to read.
3. The only other thing missing from this essay is this pathetically racist stereotype graphic appearing on the “Progressives for Obama” blog--- the same people calling for building a “new ‘New Left’ ”--- as if the old “New Left” was something to be proud of have published this graphic. Quite ironically, the old “New Left” kicked off with its own version of racism, too, with a pamphlet called “Student as N----r;” so, as this graphic so amply demonstrates--- and I am sure any anthropologist will agree--- some things never change in the world of muddle-headed, middle class intellectualism even though they are conceived as being “new:”
Check out this thought-provoking essay and let's talk about it:
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE REAL OBAMA NOW?
By: Sam Smith
Who is Sam Smith, the writer of this essay:
Over the past few weeks I've been a good boy. I've placed everything
having to do with the real Barack Obama into a futures file and spent
my time on the far grimmer matter of the real John McCain and Sarah
Now the party is over and it's time for people to put away their
Barack and Michelle dolls and start dealing with what has truly
This, I admit, is difficult because the real Obama doesn't exist yet.
He follows in the footsteps of our first postmodern president, Bill
Clinton, who observed the principles outlined by scholar Pauline
Post-modernists recognize an infinite number of interpretations...of
any text are possible because, for the skeptical post-modernists, one
can never say what one intends with language, [thus] ultimately all
textual meaning, all interpretation is undecipherable.... Many
diverse meanings are possible for any symbol, gesture, word...
Language has no direct relationship to the real world; it is, rather,
As James Krichick wrote in the New Republic, "Obama is, in his own
words, something of a Rorschach test. In his latest book, The
Audacity of Hope, he writes, 'I am new enough on the national
political scene that I serve as a blank screen on which people of
vastly different political stripes project their own views.'"
This is remarkably similar to Ted Koppel's description of Vanna White
of TV's Wheel of Fortune: "Vanna leaves an intellectual vacuum, which
can be filled by whatever the predisposition of the viewer happens to
Obama has left the same kind of vacuum. His magic, or con, was that
voters could imagine whatever they wanted and he would do nothing to
spoil their reverie. He was a handsome actor playing the part of the
first black president-to-be and, as in films, he was careful not to
muck up the role with real facts or issues that might harm the
fantasy. Hence the enormous emphasis on meaningless phrases like
hope and change.
Of course, in Obama's postmodern society--one that rises above the
purported false teachings of partisanship--we find ourselves with
little to steer us save the opinions of whatever non-ideologue
happens to be in power. In this case, we may really only have
progressed from the
ideology of the many to the ideology of the one or, some might say,
from democracy to authoritarianism.
The Obama campaign was driven in no small part by a younger
generation trained to accept brands as a substitute for policies. If
the 1960s had happened like this, the activists would have spent all
their time trying to get Martin Luther King or Joan Baez elected
president rather than pursing ancillary issues like ending
segregation and the war in Vietnam.
Obama himself took his vaunted experience in community organizing and
turned its principles on its head. Instead of empowering the many at
the bottom, he used the techniques to empower one at the top:
It is historic that a black has been elected president, but we should
remember that Obama was not running against Bull Connor, George
Wallace or Strom Thurmond. Putting Obama in the same class as
earlier black activists discredits the honor of those who died,
suffered physical harm or were repeatedly jailed to achieve equality.
Obama is not a catalyst of change, but rather its belated
beneficiary. The delay, to be sure, is striking; after all, the two
white elite sports of tennis and golf were integrated long before
presidential politics, but Washington-as Phil Hart said of
the Senate-has always been a place that always does things twenty
years after it should have.
There is an informative precedent to Obama's rise. Forty-two years
ago Edward Brooke became the first black senator to be elected with a
majority of white votes. Brooke was chosen from Massachusetts as a
Republican in a state that was 97% white.
Jason Sokol, who teaches history at the University of Pennsylvania,
wrote in History News Network:
"On Election Day, Brooke triumphed with nearly 60 percent of the
vote. Newspapers and magazines hummed with approval. The Boston
Globe invoked a legacy that included the Pilgrims, Daniel Webster,
and Charles Sumner, offering the Bay State as the nation's racial and
Journalist Carl Rowan was among the unconvinced. For whites, voting
for Brooke became "a much easier way to wipe out guilt feelings about
race than letting a Negro family into the neighborhood or shaking up
a Jim Crow school setup." Polling numbers lent credence to Rowan's
unease. They showed that only 23 percent of Massachusetts residents
approved of a statewide school integration law; just 17 percent
supported open housing."
That's the problem with change coming from the top, as Obama might
have heard when he was involved in real community organizing. It
also helps to explain why there have been no more Catholic presidents
since John Kennedy. Symbolism is not the change we need.
Getting at the reality of Obama is difficult. He performs as the
great black liberal, but since he is one half white and one half
conservative, that doesn't leave him a lot of wiggle room.
To be sure, in the Senate he got good ratings from various liberal
groups, but two things need to be remembered:
First, liberals aren't that liberal any more. Thus getting a 90%
score merely means that you went along with the best that an
extremely conservative Democratic Party was willing to risk. This is
not a party that would, in these times, have passed Social Security,
Medicare or minimum wage. In fact, many liberals aren't much
interested in economic issues at all-especially that portion of the
constituency that controls the money, the media and the message.
Second, politicians reflect their constituency. Obama's constituency
is no longer Illinois. He has a whole new set of folks to pander to.
There is one story from Chicago, however, that remains relevant. A
citizen walks into his alderman's office looking for a job. "Who
sent you?" he asks. "Nobody," he replies. Says the staffer: "We
don't want nobody nobody sent."
Who sent Barack Obama remains a mystery. He has risen from an
unknown state senator to president in exactly four years and that
only happens when somebody sends for you.
The black liberal image falters on a number of other scores including
Obama's affection for extreme right wingers like Chuck Hagel and an
obvious indifference to anybody who votes like, say, a state senator
from Hyde Park.
Think back over the campaign and try to recall a single instance when
Obama reached out to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party or
to the better angels of the Congressional Black Caucus. Instead his
ads attacked as 'extreme' the single payer health insurance backed by
many of his own supporters, he dissed ACORN and Colin Powell was as
radical a black as he wanted to be seen palling around with.
The key issue that has driven Obama throughout his career has been
Obama. He has achieved virtually nothing for any other cause. His
politics reflects whatever elite consensus he gathers around himself.
This is why his "post partisanship" needs to be watched so carefully.
If Bernie Sanders and John Conyers don't get to White House meetings
as often as Chuck Hagel, Obama will glide easily to the right, as
every president has done over the past thirty years. If liberals, as
they did with Clinton, watch without a murmur as their president
redesigns their party to fit his personal ambitions, then the whole
country will continue to move to the right as well.
Since the real Obama doesn't exist yet, it is impossible to predict
with any precision what he will do. But here is some of the evidence
gathered over the past months that should serve both as a warning and
as a prod to progressives not to take today's dreams as a reasonable
facsimile of reality:
Advisor Cass Sunstein told Jeffrey Rosen of the NY Times: "I would
be stunned to find an anti-business [Supreme Court] appointee from
either [Clinton or Obama]. There's not a strong interest on the part
of Obama or Clinton in demonizing business, and you wouldn't expect
to see that in
their Supreme Court nominees."
Obama supported making it harder to file class action suits in state
courts. David Sirota in the Nation wrote, "Opposed by most major
civil rights and consumer watchdog groups, this big business-backed
legislation was sold to the public as a way to stop 'frivolous'
lawsuits. But everyone in Washington knew the bill's real objective
was to protect corporate abusers."
He voted for a business-friendly "tort reform" bill.
He voted against a 30% interest rate cap on credit cards.
He had the most number of foreign lobbyist contributors in the
He was even more popular with Pentagon contractors than McCain.
He was most popular of the candidates with K Street lobbyists.
In 2003, rightwing Democratic Leadership Council named Obama as one
of its "100 to Watch." After he was criticized in the black media,
Obama disassociated himself with the DLC. But his major economic
advisor, Austan Goolsbee, is also chief economist of the conservative
organization. Writes Doug Henwood of the Left Business Observer,
"Goolsbee has written gushingly about Milton Friedman and denounced
the idea of a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures."
Added Henwood, "Top hedge fund honcho Paul Tudor Jones threw a
fundraiser for him at his Greenwich house last spring, 'The whole of
Greenwich is backing Obama,' one source said of the posh headquarters
of the hedge fund industry. They like him because they're socially
liberal, up to a point, and probably eager for a little less war, and
think he's the man to do their work. They're also confident he
wouldn't undertake any renovations to the distribution of wealth."
He supports the war on drugs.
He supports the crack-cocaine sentence disparity.
He supports Real ID.
He supports the PATRIOT Act.
He supports the death penalty.
He opposes lowering the drinking age to 18.
He supported amnesty for telecoms engaged in illegal spying on
He went to Connecticut to support Joe Lieberman in the primary
against Ned Lamont.
Wrote Paul Street in Z Magazine, "Obama has lent his support to the
aptly named Hamilton Project, formed by corporate-neo-liberal
Citigroup chair Robert Rubin and other Wall Street Democrats to
counter populist rebellion against corporatist tendencies within the
Democratic Party... Obama was recently hailed as a Hamiltonian
believer in limited government and free trade by Republican New York
Times columnist David Brooks, who praises Obama for having "a
mentality formed by globalization, not the SDS."
Writes the London Times, "Obama is hoping to appoint cross-party
figures to his cabinet such as Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator
for Nebraska and an opponent of the Iraq war, and Richard Lugar,
leader of the Republicans on the Senate foreign relations committee.
Senior advisers confirmed that Hagel, a highly decorated Vietnam war
veteran and one of McCain's closest friends in the Senate, was
considered an ideal candidate for defense secretary.
Richard Lugar was rated 0% by SANE...rated 0% by AFL-CIO...rated 0%
BY NARAL...rated 12% by American Public Health Association...rated 0%
by Alliance for Retired Americans...rated 27% by the National
Education Association...rated 5% by League of Conservation Voters...
He voted no on implementing the 9/11 Commission report... Voted
against providing habeas corpus for Gitmo prisoners...voted no on
comprehensive test ban treaty...voted against same sex
marriage...strongly anti-abortion...opposed to more federal funding
for healthcare...voted for unconstitutional wiretapping...voted to
increase penalties for drug violations.
Chuck Hagel was rated 0% by NARAL...rated 11% by NAACP...rated 0% by
Human Rights Coalition...rated 100% by Christian Coalition...rated
12% by American Public Health Association...rated 22% by Alliance for
Retired Americans...rated 36% by the National Education
Association...rated 0% by League of Conservation Voters...rated 8% by
AFL-CIO...He is strongly anti-abortion...voted for anti-flag
desecration amendment...voted to increase penalties for drug
violations...favors privatizing Social Security
Obama voted for a nuclear energy bill that included money for bunker
buster bombs and full funding for Yucca Mountain.
He supports federally funded ethanol and is unusually close to the
He led his party's reversal of a 25-year ban on off-shore oil
Obama has promised to double funding for private charter schools,
part of a national effort undermining public education.
He supports the No Child Left Behind Act albeit expressing
reservations about its emphasis on testing. Writes Cory Mattson,
"Despite NCLB's loss of credibility among educators and the deadlock
surrounding its attempted reauthorization in 2007, Barack Obama still
offers his support. Even the
two unions representing teachers, both which for years supported
reform of the policy to avoid embarrassing their Democratic Party
'friends,' declared in 2008 that the policy is too fundamentally
flawed to be reformed and should be eliminated."
Obama rejected moratoriums on foreclosures and a freeze on rates,
measures supported by his primary opponents John Edwards and Hillary
He was a strong supporter of the $700 billion cash-for-trash banker
Two of his top advisors are former Goldman Sachs chair Robert Rubin
and Lawrence Summers. Noted Glen Ford of black Agenda Report, "In
February 1999, Rubin and Summers flanked Fed Chief Alan Greenspan on
the cover of Time magazine, heralded as, 'The Committee to Save the
World'. Summers was then Secretary of the Treasury for Bill Clinton,
having succeeded his mentor, Rubin, in that office. Together with
Greenspan, the trio had in the previous year labored successfully to
safeguard derivatives, the exotic 'ticking time bomb' financial
instruments, from federal regulation."
Robert Scheer notes that "Rubin, who pocketed tens of millions
running Goldman Sachs before becoming treasury secretary, is the man
who got President Clinton to back legislation by then-Sen. Phil
Gramm, R-Texas, to unleash banking greed on an unprecedented scale."
Obama's fund-raising machine has been headed by Penny Prtizker former
chair of the Superior Bank, one of the first to get into subprime
mortgages. While she resigned as chair of the family business in
1994, as late as 2001 she was still on the board and wrote a letter
saying that her family was recapitalizing the bank and pledging to
"once again restore Superior's leadership position in subprime
lending." The bank shut down two months later and the Pritzker
family would pay $460 million in a settlement with the government.
Obama endorsed US involvement in the failed drug war in Colombia:
"When I am president, we will continue the Andean Counter-Drug
He has expressed a willingness to bomb Iran and won't rule out a
first strike nuclear attack.
He has endorsed bombing or invading Pakistan to go after Al Qaeda in
violation of international law. He has called Pakistan "the right
battlefield...in the war on terrorism".
He supports Israeli aggression and apartheid. Obama has deserted
previous support for two-state solution to Mid East situation and
refuses to negotiate with Hamas.
He has supported Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel, saying "it must
He favors expanding the war in Afghanistan.
Although he claims to want to get out of Iraq, his top Iraq advisor
wrote that America should keep between 60,000 and 80,000 troops in
Obama, in his appearances, blurred the difference between combat
soldiers and other troops.
He indicated to Amy Goodman that he would leave 140,000 private
contractors and mercenaries in Iraq because "we don't have the troops
to replace them".
He has called Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez an enemy of the United
States and urged sanctions against him.
He claimed "one of the things that I think George H. W. Bush doesn't
get enough credit for was his foreign policy team and the way that he
helped negotiate the end of the Cold War and prosecuted the Gulf War.
That cost us $20 billion dollars. That's all it cost. It was
extremely successful. I
think there were a lot of very wise people."
He has hawkish foreign policy advisors who have been involved in past
US misdeeds and failures. These include Zbigniew Brzezinski, Anthony
Lake, General Merrill McPeak, and Dennis Ross.
It has been reported that he might well retain as secretary of
defense Robert Gates who supports actions in violation of
international law against countries merely suspected of being
unwilling or unable to halt threats by militant groups.
Obama opposes gay marriage. He wouldn't have photo taken with San
Francisco mayor because he was afraid it would seem that he supported
Obama opposes single payer healthcare or Medicare for all.
Obama would expand the size of the military.
Obama favors a national service plan that appears to be in sync with
one being promoted by a new coalition that would make national
service mandatory by 2020, and with a bill requiring such mandatory
national service introduced by Rep. Charles Rangel.
He announced in Colorado Springs last July, "We cannot continue to
rely on our military in order to achieve the national security
objectives we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security
force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded."
On another occasion he said, "It's also important that a president
speaks to military service as an obligation not just of some, but of
many. You know, I traveled, obviously, a lot over the last 19
months. And if you go to small towns, throughout the Midwest or the
Southwest or the South, every town has tons of young people who are
serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's not always the case in other
parts of the country, in more urban centers. And I think it's
important for the president to say, this is an important obligation.
If we are going into war, then all of us go, not just some."
Some have seen this as a call for reviving the draft.
He has attacked the exclusion of ROTC on some college campuses.
Obama aggressively opposed impeachment actions against Bush. One of
his key advisors, Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago Law
School, said prosecuting government officials risks a "cycle" of
criminalizing public service.
Unlike his deferential treatment of right wing conservatives, Obama's
treatment of the left has been dismissive to insulting. He dissed
Nader for daring to run for president again. And he called the late
Paul Wellstone "something of a gadfly".
Public Campaign Financing
Obama's retreat from public campaign financing has endangered the
Obama wrote that conservatives and Bill Clinton were right to destroy
Early in the campaign, Obama said, "everything is on the table" with
As things now stand, the election primarily represents the extremist
center seizing power back from the extremist right. We have moved
from the prospect of disasters to the relative comfort of mere crises.
Using the word 'extreme' alongside the term 'center' is no
exaggeration. Nearly all major damage to the United States in recent
years-a rare exception being 9/11-has been the result of decisions
made not by right or left but by the post partisan middle: Vietnam,
Iraq, the assault on constitutional liberties, the huge damage to the
environment, and the collapse of the economy-to name a few. Go back
further in history and you'll find, for example, the KKK riddled with
members of the establishment including-in Colorado-a future governor,
senator and mayor after whom Denver's airport is named. The center,
to which Obama pays such homage, has always been where most of the
The only thing that will make Obama the president pictured in the
campaign fantasy is unapologetic, unswerving and unendingly pressure
on him in a progressive and moral direction, for he will not go there
on his own. But what, say, gave the New Deal its progressive nature
was pressure from the left of a sort that simply doesn't exist today.
Above are listed nearly three dozen things that Obama supports or
opposes with which no good liberal or progressive would agree.
Unfortunately, what's out there now, however, looks more like a rock
concert crowd or evangelical tent meeting than a determined and
directed political constituency. Which isn't so surprising given how
successful our system has been at getting people to accept sights,
sounds, symbols and semiotics as substitutes for reality. Once
again, it looks like we'll have to learn the hard way.